How does Cervantes use humor in Don Quixote? How does humor work in the novel? What are some examples of humor?

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Humor is an integral part of Cervantes's classic novel Don Quixote. The most immediately apparent source of humor in the work arises from the distance between the protagonist Don Quixote's conception of himself, the world around him, and what the reader knows to be reality. Quixote romanticizes himself and his adventures to such an extreme extent that he completely looses his grip on the real world and becomes a ridiculous figure. From jousting with windmills to falling in love with a local woman who has no idea of his existence and believing her to be a princess, Don Quixote's skewed perception...

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haleystewart10 | Student

In Don Quixote, humor, satire and tragedy dove-tail. In reality, Don Quixote is more tragi-comic than comic in and of itself. While Don Quixote's far-fetched plans and ill-conceived ideas are often humorous, as when he pretends to fight windmills he imagines giants or rescue women he fancies damsels in distress, their consequences are usually violent: he receives a beating fighting the windmills and is equally beaten by the men from whom he wishes to save the supposed damsels. Don Quixote's slap-stick comedy starts off as funny, but grows increasingly darker with each of Don Quixote's defeats and beatings.

Ultimately, Cervantes uses humor in Don Quixote to intelligently 'soften' or 'hide' his important societal critiques. Cervantes was writing at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, in which speech was heavily censored and authors could face death for writing in ways that critiqued official religious discourse and practices. Cervantes draws attention away from the seriousness of the critiques he launches–he critiques the Church's repressive discourse about 'truth' in the time, for example, by creating a subjective, multi-storied world full of many partial truths–by making many of his scenes 'low-brow'. In this way, Cervantes could engage with the events of his time while escaping censorship and prosecution. The fact that laughter often lapses into tears in Don Quixote shows precisely how the comedic is a smoke-screen or facade hiding a far darker reality.